Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice
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EECAAC 2016: position of UNAIDS

In October 2015 18 national, regional and international NGOs working in the field of combating the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) and other countries sent an open letter addressing the foreign members of the 5th Eastern Europe and Central Asia AIDS Conference (EECAAC) Organizing Committee. Among the addressees was a co-chair of the EECAAC Organizing Committee Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Only one of the addressees responded to the letter immediately – Stefano Vella, Head of the Department of Therapeutic Research and Medicines Evaluation of The Italian National Institute of Health. You may read his response below:

Dear Anya,

I would like to thank you for the kind letter signed by you and other members of relevant organizations working in the field and combating the dramatic HIV epidemic in the region.

I am well aware of the factors which in the region are fueling the epidemic (and will ultimately end with a spread to the general population) and of the discriminating position regarding KAP of many Eastern European and Central Asia countries. I am a reviewer of The Lancet serie on key populations and I just worked on the paper on prisoners in the EE/CA, so you can understand my level of knowledge.

This situation remember to me the time of the Durban Conference in the year 2000. As President of the IAS of that time, together with important colleagues, some of whom are also participanting to the EECA conference, we decided to insist and hold the conference in Durban despite the denialism and a very negative environment. And that conference, despite the many who decided not to go, has indeed been an important starting point for ‘universal access’.

Of course, the setting and the problems are different, but in my personal opinion, not to go would just be taken as ‘irrelevant’. In general, I think that to be there and try to have an impact (although I am aware of the difficulties) is better than not being there.

With best personal regards,

Stefano Vella MD
Istituto Superiore di Sanità – Roma

And at the end of January 2016 we finally got a response from Mr. Sidibe. The way we got it was a bit strange – his response letter was send by a staff member of UNAIDS office in Kazakhstan to one of the local NGO representatives with a request to disseminate it widely and was resend by his colleagues from Usbekistan to ITPCru listserv. We have never received the response directly. We can’t say that this response contains any real suggestions or decisions with regard to those problems highlighted in our letter but at least there is some dialogue taking place. You may download the response letter in PDF here.

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